Elytra is a new class of scalable orbital vehicles announced by the CEO Bill Weber of Firefly Aerospace, an end-to-end space transportation company. These vehicles’ operational mission will be to offer rapid on-orbit solutions across low Earth orbit, cislunar space and beyond.
Introducing Elytra: Our line of highly mobile and scalable orbital vehicles. Formerly known as our Space Utility Vehicle, Elytra offers more robust on-orbit solutions, including mobility, hosting, delivery, and servicing across cislunar space and beyond. pic.twitter.com/bjJw969yBB— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly_Space) August 8, 2023
The maiden flight is scheduled for 2024, aboard a Firefly Alpha rocket. It will support flexible launch options both from the launch pads of Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and a new facility forthcoming at the Cape Canaveral Space Center. This mission aims to demonstrate the responsive on-orbit capabilities of Elytra for successful maneuvers and deployment of satellites at times and places decided by the customers.
“Elytra further expands Firefly’s on-orbit services by opening access to more orbits, extending the life of each mission, and providing deorbiting services to help minimize space debris.”— Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace Company
Firefly Aerospace offers three different Elytra vehicle models which can travel into space to support more advanced on-orbit missions:
- Dawn Vehicle, aimed at on-orbit responsive hosting, rideshare, and delivery for low Earth orbit (LEO);
- Dusk Vehicle, equipped with excellent maneuverability, great power, and complete autonomy, is a platform aimed at on-orbit tasking and mobility which can operate from LEO to GEO;
- Dark Vehicle, highly reinforced to withstand long and sustained in-orbit services as well as transfers from LEO orbit to lunar orbit and beyond;
Finally, yet importantly, every configuration is equipped with flight-proven hardware used on the Alpha launcher. In addition, there are also some qualified systems common to Firefly’s Blue Ghost lunar lander, such as carbon composite structures, avionics, and propulsion systems. This strategy is adopted by many Space Agencies in order to maximize the technologies already available to reduce the need for investment.
Firefly Company Mission
With the development of small- to medium-lift launch vehicles, lunar landers, and orbital vehicles, Firefly Company aims to provide reliable, rapid, and affordable access to space.
The launcher configurations developed and used are:
- Firefly Alpha is a two-stage non-reusable launch vehicle developed in order to compete in the commercial market for the launch of small satellites. It is designed to be able to launch a payload of 1,000 kg in LEO or a payload of 600 kg SSO, suitable for example for CubeSats;
- Medium-lift launch vehicle (MLV), is a rocket developed in collaboration with Northrop Grumman, aimed at delivering 16,000 kg to LEO. It will feature the new Firefly’s Antares 330 first stage, equipped with 7 Miranda Engines. Its maiden flight is scheduled for 2025.